September 25, 2017
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Trump immigration policy threatens clinical research efforts

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Foreign medical graduates play a substantial role in clinical and biomedical research efforts; thus, Trump-era immigration policies that deny individuals from certain foreign countries threaten such efforts, according to findings published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Recently proposed changes to U.S. immigration policy, such as President Donald J. Trump’s executive order suspending the entry of persons from several Muslim-majority countries and stricter regulations on work visas, have raised moral, legal and geopolitical questions for the United States,” Dhruv Khullar, MD, MPP, from Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University, and colleagues wrote. “They also have engendered clinical and biomedical research concerns for the U.S. medical community.”

Khullar and colleagues performed an analysis of data from Doximity, a cross-sectional database of all physicians in the United States, to assess the scientific contributions of foreign medical graduates to biomedical research. Physicians who graduated from a medical school not located in the United States, including United States citizens who were educated abroad, were considered foreign medical graduates.

The researchers found that in 2015, there were 778,781 physicians practicing in the United States; of whom, 21.1% were foreign medical graduates. In addition, 18.3% of academic physicians in the United States were foreign medical graduates and 15.1% of full professors completed medical school in other countries. Foreign medical graduates contributed to 18% of all publications, 18.5% of first-authored publications and 16.5% of last-authored publications. Despite foreign medical graduates being ineligible for certain NIH awards, they led 12.5% of NIH grants, as well as 18.5% of clinical trials.

These data suggest that foreign medical graduates are critical components of clinical teaching, mentorship and biomedical research, according to the researchers.

“Physicians educated abroad but working in the United States play a critical role in promoting and maintaining America’s biomedical competitiveness,” Khullar and colleagues concluded. “Our findings suggest that they account for nearly a fifth of U.S. biomedical research scholarship. By hampering the ability of [foreign medical graduates] to learn from and contribute to the academic medical community in the United States, we risk worsening the health of patients, weakening our position as a global leader in medical innovation, and compromising our aspirational commitment to the ideals that spur scientific progress: collaboration, understanding and the free exchange of ideas.” – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: Khullar reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other researchers’ relevant financial disclosures.